Science Kid

I’ve written about several of my first graders in previous posts.  You’ve met Precious Precocious and Kid Danger.  Now allow me to introduce you to my friend, Science Kid.  He’s bright and very interested in science.  Earlier in the year we were discussing sequencing as an inquiry skill.  The illustration used in our science book was of the butterfly life cycle.  Science Kid pops out with, “That’s a chrysalis.”  Indeed.

Something else that you should know about Science Kid is that he has ADHD.  On the very first day of school, mom practically threw him in my door.  “He should be on meds and he isn’t today,” she informed me before fleeing the scene.  Nice!  And believe me, you can tell the difference between a day when he has his medication and a day when he doesn’t.

Still, I don’t like to have preconceived notions about kids.  I’d rather go along and see what happens.  And what I saw was a kid who, while constantly in motion, appeared to me to try hard to do the right thing, and who also was apparently listening even when it seemed that he was not.

It was interesting as our class moved throughout the school to lunch and Fine Arts classes.  I kept getting the same reaction.  “Oh!  You’ve got Science Kid.  Wow!”  But truthfully, he seemed okay to me.

I realize that I’m more patient that some.  While other teachers might be calling home every day, I get that he needs to move, and so as long as he’s paying attention, I’m alright with him digging through the supplies and fidgeting with the edge of the carpet.

On the other hand, I’m not patient with oppositional/defiant behavior.  Suddenly, this is what we seem to be getting.  And again, I get that there are certain traits I can expect from ADHD, difficulty with transitions for example.  Today, he absolutely refused to stop working on an ancillary project that he can finish tomorrow.  When I insisted that he stop and leave it for another time, he set about trying to break a pen from the supply basket.  That’s not okay with me.  My patience is beginning to wear thin.

I try to temper my response to his behavior with the understanding that as unpleasant as he can sometimes be on the outside, it’s probably much worse on the inside to be Science Kid.

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Just When You Get Everything Running Like a Well-Oiled Machine

I got a new student about a week ago.  Getting a new kid just when you have everything up and running is hard.  He doesn’t have a Homework Folder, a Homework Journal, a Monday Journal, a Poetry Journal, a Writing Workshop Folder, a Book Baggie.  He doesn’t understand how we do homework in our class.  To which literacy center team am I going to assign him?  And you know he has no idea how to do our centers.  What is his ‘just right’ reading level?  It’s always a pain.

Enhancing the situation, our new friend is clearly accustomed to being coddled and spoiled.  He spent his first fifteen minutes in our classroom wailing like a banshee.  I’m not a callous hard-ass.  I get that it’s scary to be the new kid in a new place.  It’s not uncommon for kids to take a little time to warm up.  But wailing takes it to a whole new level.

After he calmed down, for his next magical trick he began to accuse other kids of being mean to him.  Trouble is, he hadn’t been there long enough to choose kids who belong to the “Most Likely To Pick on Somebody” club so he fingered some long shots.

My personal favorite moment of his very first day was when he waved his paper at me during Writing Workshop.

“What’s wrong?” I asked Pampered & Spoiled.

“I scribbled on my paper,” he replied.

“Well, I guess your new piece has scribble on it,” I calmly commented.

He proceeded to come over to my small group table and whine about the scribble.  That he’d put on his page.

wpid-20141013_093734.jpgDon’t you just love the $1 bins in the front of Target?  I always find treasures there.  There might be stickers, pencils, puzzles, little toys for the Treasure Box…all kinds of things.  Once a few years ago, I found this sign.  No whining.  It pretty much says it all.

I said to the petit prince, “I don’t know where you were, but you’re in real school now.  Do you see that sign?”

If one can whine while one nods, young sir did so.

“It says ‘No Whining’,” I informed him.  “You are in an official ‘no whining’ zone.  If you want to whine, you have to go somewhere else.  That sign says so.”

Sir Pampered & Spoiled regarded me solemnly.

I sent him back to his seat with one parting thought: “I don’t make the law.  I just enforce it.”

Because Geniuses Run the World

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you have heard of the Common Core State Standards.  For the uninitiated, they are the instructional standards for kindergarten through grade twelve, the core math and language arts content that students should have mastered by the time they graduate from high school.

Initially, Common Core was adopted by most of the fifty states, including the great state of Florida.  As with anything new, it was greeted with huge controversy and there was a lot of loud protest against the Common Core.

I had no problem with Common Core, per se.  I mean, doesn’t it seem reasonable to say that first graders in Maine, Oregon, Iowa, and Texas should all be learning the same thing?  If only so that if Johnny moves from Freeport, ME to Portland, OR in the middle of the year, he’ll be up to speed?

I think the visceral negative reaction was more due to the fact that once again, standards were tied to big, high-stakes, standardized testing.  I prefer to think of these tests as “Gotcha!” assessments.  If Johnny has a head cold and didn’t get the right amount of sleep the night before, or, heaven forbid, he’s just not feeling it on a given day, Gotcha!  You, the student, fail, and you, the teacher, are incompetent.

At any rate, mucho dinero  and ridiculous amounts of time were spent in the pursuit of retraining teachers and administrators on the Common Core State Standards.  Whereas previously, Florida teachers were required to teach to the Florida’s Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT), now we were being required to teach to the the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).  I know what you’re thinking.  Six one, half-dozen the other, right?  That’s where you’d be wrong.

You see, FCAT is owned by Pearson, and they have been getting millions of dollars for years for administering and scoring the test.  Ironically enough, they also get millions of dollars for selling intervention materials for students who score poorly on the test.  Well, that’s convenient.

PARCC, however, is a consortium of participating states, and according to the website, not affiliated with a publishing company.  The process of developing the test is described in this way:  The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is a group of states working together to develop a set of assessments that measure whether students are on track to be successful in college and their careers.

But alas, none of that matters, because despite having spent the last three years gearing up for the inaugural launch of the PARCC this coming spring, the great state of Florida decided, in its infinite wisdom, to opt out of Common Core State Standards.  We were informed of this mid-May of last year.  We will, instead, be teaching the Language Arts Florida Standards (LAFS) and Mathematics Florida Standards (MaFS).  I shit you not.  And, obviously, there will have to be a new standardized high-stakes test.  Do you suppose someone’s brother-in-law will get the bid for administering and scoring it?

And oh, by the way, said the powers that be, here’s a list of concepts you haven’t covered yet, but you need to cover them by the end of the year so that next year’s second graders will be up to speed.  I’m sorry.  Your emergency is not my emergency.

Which brings us back around to the the present.  We’re being asked to revamp our math block.  Must prepare for the new test.  Which my first graders won’t take for another two years.  Or at all, if the powers that be change their minds again.

We’ll need to add math centers.  Which we used to do, then were told we couldn’t do them, now we’ve gotta again.  Sigh.  I wanted to share a picture of a manipulative my girl Miz O Postrophe made.  She gives credit to Teacher Tipster for the idea, but it’s a really good thing.

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Ten frame made by Miz O Postrophe, from an idea by Teacher Tipster

You’re looking at a Dollar Tree baking sheet, painter’s tape, and two-color counters with magnetic tape on the back of them.  Boom!  You’ve got a ten frame.

Here’s what I think.  Regardless of which standards we use or what standardized high-stakes test we are expected to teach to, the truth is the truth.  At the first grade level, we’re teaching the nuts-and-bolts foundational skills of reading, writing, addition, and subtraction.  All the rest is smoke and mirrors.

Zero at 20

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Yesterday was Day 20.  Zero the Hero made another visit, bringing us each twenty pretzels.  He sent us an ‘e-mail’ exhorting us to count them by ones, twos, fives, and tens.  As we wrote about our twenty pretzels in our Zero the Hero Journals we took the time to enjoy our pretzels.  Zero the Hero should make his next appearance on Day 30.

Delivered to my room today was a huge packet of materials called Mountain Math.  Apparently, someone has decided that instead of/in addition to the usual calendar math we do every morning and the pattern work we do as we celebrate Zero the Hero, we need to do this other system.  It’s going to take me hours to laminate all the pieces and cut them out.  No word on where I’ll keep the eleventy-billion kibbles and bits.

Oh, and I need to designate a bulletin board for this whole thing.  Would that be the actual bulletin board where our calendar math is now?  Or the faux one I made by putting fabric on the opposite side of the dry erase board to make the thing symmetrical?

Sorry, Zero the Hero.  It looks as though your skill set may longer be needed as we enter a new streamlining phase vis a vis talking about number patterns.  Good luck in your new venture.